IBM has announced significant updates to Watson Natural Language Understanding that it said will enable organisations to better gauge customer sentiment, as well as achieve faster and more accurate processing of documents such as PDFs at scale.\nIt amounts to the commercial debut of key IBM Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities emerging from its \u2018Project Debator\u2019, which it says is the only AI system able to engage humans in complex debates.\nNew features will be added progressively throughout this year, the company said.\nAmong the key capabilities now being brought to market with Watson is the ability to understand idioms and colloquialisms such as \u2018hardly helpful\u2019 or \u2018hot under the collar\u2019, which have tended to confuse AI systems to date.\nSuch phrases are known as \u2018sentiment shifters\u2019, and with advanced sentiment analysis, businesses can now make better use of this data to gain a more holistic understanding of operations.\nIn addition to advanced sentiment analysis, IBM is also adding new capabilities for \u2018summarization\u2019 as well as \u2018clustering\u2019.\nSummarization pulls textual data from multiple sources providing users with an overview of what is being said and written about a particular topic. A previous version of this technology was deployed earlier this year to analyse over 18 million articles, blogs and bios as part of a large-scale data project undertaken for the Grammys music awards. Data was used to build a live stream for the red carpet segment with on-demand videos and photos giving fans deeper context on leading topics.\nNew topic clustering techniques will enable users to create meaningful "topics" of related information for analysis. IBM said the technique will be integrated into Watson Discovery later this year, and will also allow subject matter experts to customise and tweak topics to reflect the language of different businesses or industries such as insurance, healthcare and manufacturing.\n\u201cLanguage is a tool for expressing thought and opinion, as much as it is a tool for information,\u201d said Rob Thomas, general manager, IBM Data and AI.\n\u201cThis is why we\u2019re harvesting technology from Project Debater and integrating it into Watson \u2013 to enable businesses to capture, analyse, and understand more from human language and start to transform how they utilise intellectual capital codified in data.\u201d\nIBM already has a number of high profile customers using AI-driven language processing in Australia, including financial services company, Suncorp.\nJason Leonard, partner, cognitive computing and analytics at IBM Australia told CIO the new language features announced for IBM Watson would enable significant improvements in sentiment analysis across key areas of their operations.\nAlready Suncorp has reported encouraging results in its insurance claims division, using a Watson-based system able to understand simple yet important distinctions such as \u201cthe car crashed into the back of me\u201d and \u201cI crashed into the back of the car\u201d.\u00a0\nLisa Harrison, Suncorp\u2019s chief customer and digital officer said the company has been using Watson natural language to improve customer experiences since 2017, as well as simplifying processes freeing staff to work on more meaningful tasks.\n\u201cEach year we receive more than 500,000 motor insurance claims and implementing this technology has significantly reduced the time taken for customers to complete a claim, with many doing so in as little as five minutes,\u201d she said.\n\u201cIBM Watson is smart, fast and reliable, and we are excited to seeing how the new NLP features will enable us to deliver more great outcomes for our customers."\nOther notable Australian customers include energy giant Woodside, which is using Watson language processing to collect and analyse language data for improving worker safety, while Sydney-based media company Oovoo is using Watson language processing to vastly speed up the process of selecting videos to accompany articles online.\nInternationally, ESPN Fantasy Football has deployed Watson Discovery and Watson Knowledge Studio to crunch millions of football data sources each day of the season, providing millions of fantasy football players with real-time insights.\nWatson uses natural language processing to discern the tone and sentiment of multiple data sources including news articles, forums, blogs, projections, rankings, tweets and podcasts that might cover everything from locker-room chatter to injury analysis.\nESPN Fantasy Football then \u201csurfaces\u201d these discoveries in so-called player cards that note the \u201cboom and bust\u201d potential of players, while also informing the \u2018Player Buzz\u201d section which summarises positive or negative commentary about a player.\nA natural extension of IBM\u2019s infamous foray into the Jeopardy game show world, Debator has also proved itself a capable adversary with a recent debate being only narrowly won by a human according to a live audience, which voted the \u2018machine\u2019 as a better source of knowledge.\u00a0\nIt\u2019s an interesting development for industries and professions where language and communication are prominent.\n\u201cWe can see this technology playing an important role in the legal profession where machines could be used to augment the activities of lawyers actually presenting in court,\u201d said IBM\u2019s Leonard.